The Art of Engineering challenge returns for another year to beautify the engineering buildings while representing the connection between engineering and art.
The idea for the competition came after several faculty members discussed ways to celebrate student creativity and enhance engineering spaces. The group had jointly read a research paper about the impact lab decorations can have on students and their sense of belonging. The study, published by the American Psychological Association, documented that changing the decorations in a computer science classroom from Star Trek-type posters to more global images of nature positively impacted female undergraduates’ sense of belonging.
Soon after reading the paper, Professor Zoë Wood, in collaboration with the Graphic Communication Department, was able to hang several paintings donated by local artists in the general computing lab.
“The walls were just big blank white spots before,” Wood said. “The paintings definitely improve the space with color and a reminder there is more to life than blank walls.”
Inspired to impact more spaces, the Art of Engineering initiative invites students to participate in the process of decorating the walls with creative images and celebrating the beauty of engineering. This year, judges are looking for submissions focused on constructive engineering and those that celebrate cultural affinity groups.
“The engineering design process is inherently innovative and creative, and we often produce visual artifacts to convey information about engineering design choices or data measurements,” Wood said. “It seems natural to celebrate the creative and visual side of engineering and decorate our spaces along the way.”
The 2022 competition focused on celebrating the aesthetic beauty of engineering. The winners’ art pieces were displayed throughout the college’s common spaces and labs.
One of last year’s Art of Engineering winners was the piece “Female Pioneers in Their Field,” which took home the Best Collection Award.
“As students from Cal Poly’s Women Involved in Hardware and Software, we decided that nothing would be more inspiring or welcoming to women in engineering than seeing female pioneers in their field,” the art piece’s description reads. “We sought to make aesthetically pleasing posters of these women and also tried to focus on women of color as we wanted to foster and celebrate diversity at Cal Poly, as it is an area in which we hope to see improvements in the coming years.”
“Female Pioneers in Their Field” was created by Sai Rama Balakrishnan (software engineering), Nicole Donato (software engineering), Bora Joo (computer science), Lindsay Landstad (software engineering), Katie Seidl (software engineering) and Vi-Linh Vu (computer science).
The art piece “Glycerin Cocktail” by Wanjiku Gichigi (mechanical engineering) and Tuyetthuc Nguyen (mechanical engineering) was awarded the Platinum Award and the Dean’s Appreciation Award in the 2022 Art of Engineering competition.
“Is this a jellyfish? Or a bullet? The magic of this sequence is that it is found in a mundane, everyday occurrence: water emptying from a bottle,” the pair writes about their submission. “This piece reflects just a snippet of the research being explored by the Mayer Fluids Research Group in Cal Poly’s Fluids Lab.”
The 2023 winners will have their work displayed in common spaces and labs within the College of Engineering, including Building 14, Building 192, Bonderson and the ATL. A cross-disciplinary committee of three CENG faculty or staff members with one CLA staff or faculty member will select the works to be publicly displayed.
“Reminders about the beauty of the natural world can be a relief when working long hours on a computer,” Wood said. “My hope is that, in general, creating inspiring spaces can help all students feel comfortable in our working space.”
In addition to the Art of Engineering competition, Cal Poly is spearheading an effort to beautify the campus through the transformation of utility boxes into canvases for works of public art. Students, faculty and staff can submit their art applications through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to submit entries for the 2023 Art of Engineering competition and the utility box art initiative is Feb. 15.